RTÉ board did not give written approval for loss-making Toy Show the Musical, report finds

Investigation into stage production also understood to criticise lack of governance around the project

Toy Show The Musical. Photograph: Ste Murray

The RTÉ board did not give written approval for the Toy Show the Musical, which went on to record losses of €2.2 million, a new report has found.

A spokeswoman for Minister for Media Catherine Martin confirmed on Wednesday that a report into the production had been received. She said the Minister would give the report “due consideration over the coming days”.

“She will not be commenting until then, and until it has been published by RTÉ,” the spokeswoman added.

The report, carried out by auditing firm Grant Thornton, has not been published, but is understood to have found there was no written record of approval being given by the RTÉ board for the musical and that there was a lack of governance over the project.

READ MORE

A senior source said the report also examines risks that existed around the project, finding there was not sufficient probing despite those risks. It is also understood that the report finds there were extra financial losses associated with the project beyond those which are already in the public domain, although the figures are not said to be major.

Some 30 people were interviewed by the auditors although it is understood that none of them have been named. The report will raise serious questions around corporate governance within the broadcaster. Questions are now likely to be raised around whether the RTÉ Board were probing the project enough or whether they were kept in the dark, a source with knowledge of the report said.

The full report will be published by Thursday, and its publication is likely to put further pressure on the national broadcaster at a time when the Government is mulling options for how to fund it into the future.

It comes as RTÉ staff were told by email on Wednesday that certain staff and contractors will be required to make an annual return to the register of interests.

The email does not make clear who will be impacted but says letters will issue to staff concerned in the coming days. A separate register of external activities will also commence this month, which will be published every quarter from February 1st this year.

“To underline RTÉ's commitment to our impartiality, we will publish details of approved activities on a quarterly basis,” staff were told. Entries will include the person’s name, details of the activity and any payment or benefit received.

Staff were also told that it was a “fundamental rule” that no RTÉ locations, studios, equipment, brands or social media links be used to promote outside commercial interests or activites - applying to staff, contractors, studio guests and panellists.

The Grant Thornton report, commissioned by the broadcaster’s audit and risk committee, examines how RTÉ came to lose €2.2 million on Toy Show the Musical. The show ran over a period of several weeks at the Convention Centre in Dublin in late 2022.

Minutes of RTÉ board meetings previously indicated that there was a “lapse of control” around the ill-fated musical and a failure by the board of RTÉ to halt the project.

A second report examining whether staff severance deals at RTÉ were managed correctly is also due to be completed and published in the near future.

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath said on Tuesday that households would be expected to pay the TV licence for the remainder of this year as setting up a new funding model for public service broadcasting would take time.

“Even if the decision was made on an alternative, it will require legislation and the system will have to be set up; it will take time, so we will certainly have the TV licence for the remainder of this year,” he said.

The Minister said he believes the Government should make a decision this year on what the future funding model will be for RTÉ.

Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times